After victory

However dubious George W. Bush’s decision to go to war, the swift military victory of the United States and Britain over Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq is a good thing. A short war has meant fewer military casualties on both sides as well as fewer civilian deaths. The defeat of Saddam and destruction of the Baath Party is certain to improve the lives of Iraqis, a people who have lived under a vicious police state for thirty years. Saddam’s removal also promises to bring a measure of greater stability to the immediate region. Saddam spent much of the last two decades waging war against his neighbors while trying to build an arsenal that would make him master of the entire Middle East. Few of Saddam’s fellow Arabs are sorry to see him go. At this point, how the Arab world reacts to U.S. intervention depends on the nature and length of the U.S. occupation and whether a stable Iraqi democracy emerges. As Jean Bethke Elshtain notes (page 11), just-war concerns must continue to guide U.S. actions.

Few critics of the Bush administration’s decision to wage war against Iraq defended the legitimacy of Hussein’s regime. Fewer still thought the war would last long or pose any insuperable problems to the U.S. military. What opponents of unilateral U.S. action worried about were the consequences of an American victory and subsequent occupation of an Arab country. Can the United States govern an Arab nation of 24 million...

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